Suspense or the End, What’s Harder to Write?
[I wrote this post as a member of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group where we share our worries and also offer support to each other on the first Wednesday of every month. If you’re a writer like me and you’re looking for a bit of support, you can click the link and sign up here]
Writing suspense is an art to be learned: The promise of danger, a rise in tension to keep the goal from the main character, and then embedding these pieces with just the right mix of action to generate empathy and concern for the main character. The task is more difficult to show than I’d imagined, but enjoyable all the same.
Then of course, there always has to be an end, a switch from tension to resolution. The reader wants to be surprised. The writer wants them to have an emotional investment by the end. The main character must fight harder than ever to go for the goal and step up to be the hero all by herself. Lots and lots of promises have been made to the reader by this point through the suspense. In the past, I’d forgotten to tie up a few really great promises. I remember a previous draft where I’d added a great piece of tension of a missing captain on a ship and created a fear about the ocean in the main character, but then I forgot to go back and solve the captain’s disappearance. I thought, I’ll get to it in the next book, but my beta reading friends didn’t seem to like that answer one bit.
Now that I face the ending once again, I’m biting my own nails and wondering if I’ve accomplished all the pieces I’ve meant to accomplish. I’ve been reviewing tips and articles across the web to help me. Now I’m struggling to stop with the suspense and I can’t seem to end it. 🙂
Ever been there? You’ve thought through the book? You’ve faced the beginning of the end? And in facing the end you’re almost scared to tie it all up?
I have a tip I’ve been pondering.
When facing the resolution and wrapping up all the promises, does the goal escalate and complicate for the main character so the reader feels something so strong, they can’t put the book down?
It’s sort of haunting me. Yes, my character has grown. She’s stepped up to the plate with a solid bat in her hands. With loaded bases, two strikes on the board, will she swing for that home run? Will she try to walk? No matter the choice on that base, I realize she has to try to save the day, and she is the only one who can do that task, free the team to take the plate and score, too. It has to be shocking for my genre, and I know I must stay a step ahead of the reader because I really don’t want the story to be predictable.
In any case, I’ve been struggling to tie up one last promise. It’s jostled one action sequence in the resolution. I’m so close. I know I have the right ending. Now I just have to finish it.
My question: Do you find the Suspense or the End harder to write?
I’d love to here your struggle.
And, I decided to leave you with a picture of my cat Maverick. It relates. He’s taught me so much about the art of suspense. I’m hoping to pull a post together all about the way to hook his interest.
Thank you for stopping in today.
Posted on February 3, 2016, in Uncategorized and tagged Cloud Nine Girl, Erika Beebe, IWSG, writing suspense, writing the end. Bookmark the permalink. 27 Comments.
I did posts on tracking subplots and I’m sure if you look around you’ll find tons of advice that will make it easier next round. I also found wrapping things up to be one of the hardest parts of longer fiction. Good luck in the adventure. We wouldn’t do it if it was easy. 😉
Anna from elements of emaginette
I love it so much Anna. And I will certainly be sniffing around your blog. 🙂
I always find the 3rd quarter hardest… when I have to pull all the strands back together in an elegant way. If I can manage this well, the ending FLOWS. If I don’t, the whole rest of the book is hard. (and I know it isn’t as good as it should be)
Thank you Hart for stopping in. I am still working on that skill to…it’s such a balance between art and craft but, I love it.
I’d say the epic climax is the hardest for me to write. Bringing everything all together for the final scene and trying to balance the pacing. You want it quick, action-paced, but not too fast that the scene is almost over before it begins. There is also the resolution to the plot mixed in that climatic scene so we have to make sure we lead that scene to an end that is believable and satisfying. The balancing act is the difficult part, but when it all comes together, it’s heaven.
I can’t wait! That’s exactly where I am right now and I am almost scared to do it. Lol Thank you for stopping in Jenny.
I’m not sure which is the hardest. Before reading your post, I was thinking the end, but the end is always laid out. Usually, sometimes from the very beginning of the story, you know how it should end you just have to find the right words. It’s the suspense and the middle of the story that can take crazy turns and delve into unexpected places. One key thing to keep in mind is that, if told correctly, even predictable endings can occasionally be just what a story needs. The predictableness/suspense isn’t going to be what bring the reader back to your story again and again; it’s the way it’s told. Just food for thought. Hope both your suspense and end come together wonderfully! 🙂
Thank you Amanda. I like your comments on predictable endings. I can see the value and especially in romance and Cinderella fairy tales. I appreciate you stopping in. 🙂
What cat? Kidding! He’s good at hiding.
Just let that last loose end tie up naturally. Let it fit the story.
I tend to see the ending first and work my way backwards to the beginning. Weird, but it works.
I like that Alex. Thank you for stopping in too.?My funny cat is a master ninja teacher. You never know what you get when he decides to show himself, or where he might emerge. Lol
Bless those beta readers. I was ready to send in my ms when one of my beta readers said she didn’t realize the main character was married. No, I told her. Her fiance died, so no wedding. Then why did she tell her dad she knew he was at her wedding? Slap to the forehead! I must admit I’m never happy with the ending and it takes a lot of re-writes for me to feel it isn’t rushed or too dramatic…just right with all the loose ends tied up neatly to deliver satisfaction to the reader who spent so much time reading the story. Enjoyed your post!
Thank you J.Q. I really appreciate you sharing your experience too. I love my writing friends and this group has been such a blessing to me. Thank you for stopping in 🙂
Suspense can be SO challenging, so I envy you guys who can do that! You have to make sure the suspense is enough to keep readers guessing, but the payoff has to be strong enough so that they aren’t disappointed. I would imagine all of it would be hard–except maybe the beginning!
The beginning is definitely an open door of endless possibility. Thank you for stopping in Stephanie!
We all bite our nails wondering if we’ve done what we hoped. You are in the right group!
Thank you C. Lee. I appreciate you stopping in and yes, the group is helping me hope and feel like I am not up against a brick wall like I used to. It is so nice to hear what others struggle with and how they were able to overcome. 🙂
I love it when a plan comes together! Suspense is my favorite ingredient in any book I’m reading – the layering, the teasing, the anticipation – If it doesn’t tie up in a satisfying way I’m so disappointed. The End makes all the difference. The payoff that pleases.
Hi Nancy. Thank you so much for stopping in. I agree about the end. I get so upset when a book leads me in a direction that feels wrong. I have put a few books down for that very reason and never picked them back up. I think my plan finally wrapped up this morning though and now I am so excited to write it all out!
Nancy, I would like to return the favor and visit your blog however, I am struggling to find it. Would you send you your link or title? Thank you so much 😊
Yep, I’ve got some loose ends to tie up myself in one of my books, plus I’m rewriting the end entirely to make it stronger and hopefully shorter. Word count is not my friend.
Mine either Tamara. I am staring 95 k in the face on mine with two chapters to go. Maybe three. I wish you much luck and many great epiphany moments. Thank you for stopping in. I appreciate it. Erika
I find the climactic scene the hardest to write. It has to be spare for the action and suspense to build, yet contain enough sensory/emotional details to wring the reader’s heart and keep them fully involved, without those details getting in the way. It’s hard to find that balance.
Good luck finishing out that promise! I know you’ll get there.
Thank you Lori. I appreciate you stopping in. I definitely don’t want to disappoint the reader.
Interesting and thought-provoking, Erika. As an outliner, I don’t really struggle with either (except that also assumes I’m doing them well! Ha ha). I find I don’t have to worry about the escalation in the second half of the book, but do have to focus more intently on building suspense in the first half while I’m introducing characters, goals, and action. That can bog down if I’m not careful 🙂
Thank you for dropping in and sharing your learning points and what you consider as you write. As always, you always make me chuckle with your fun comments. I tend to get so lost in my own mind as I write and surprises always jump forward I have too, or I derail my own characters. Happy valentines weekend to you and yours 😊
Great topic. For me, it’s difficult to tell if my suspense is enough. After all, I’m no longer surprised.
Love the idea of an article about surprising your cat!
Oh Jacqui, I hadn’t thought of suspense like that. Thank you for stopping in. The blog is definitely in progress. Lol